Sunday, June 29, 2008 marks the end of the Narcotics Enforcement Team (commonly referred to as Vice Squad). In a move allegedly aimed at maximizing manpower and reducing costs (those pesky budgetary concerns, don’t you know), the members of this unit are being reassigned to the TAC (Tactical Anti-Crime) squads.
This just doesn’t make sense in any way, shape, or form.
South Ward Councilman Jim Coston addressed some of this in today’s blog. The Councilman makes a very simple and clear argument that the phasing out of vice as well as canine units for their alleged cost savings is just so much (and he’s way too polite and polished to say it this way) “B.S.!”
Coston, along with Councilmen Bethea, Melone and Segura, are also leading the charge in requesting that the NJ State Police be asked to come in and supplement the understaffed and overwhelmed Trenton Police Department.
Councilpersons Lartigue, Pintella and Staton don’t appear to be as ready to challenge either the decision to eliminate vice and reduce the canine unit to nothing or the refusal of the police and city administrations to ask for help from the State Police. To be fair, this stance is not all that surprising since none of the three are known for their willingness to go against the whims and will of City Hall.
The big question is:
“Why are the Mayor and [former] Police Director Santiago so adamantly working to stifle true progress in making Trenton safer for those of us already here and those they swear will come to the many (as yet to be realized) high profile development projects?”
We hear all the time that “crime is down” yet even Councilman Pintella has questioned why he still witnesses open air drug dealing as he makes his way about town. Most of us have been the victim of a crime, know a victim of a crime or are but a few degrees of separation from the victim of a crime in Trenton in the last five years.
Most of us, as Councilman Melone has pointed out repeatedly, do not feel safer now than we did five years ago.
In the face of all this it is absurd that the Mayor has allowed Mr. Santiago to whittle away at the ability of the police to protect and serve the public by a series of poor management decisions.
If, as we are told constantly, drug sales are what drive crime in the city, why have we dismantled the very team that was responsible for responding to reports of drug activity through investigation, observation, and subsequent action?
If, as we are told, manpower is short (and on this point we all agree), why are we wasting resources having officers stand on downtown corners three times each week day, leaving patrols short handed?
We always felt the horse patrols were an unwise move that the city could ill-afford. Now they have been discontinued due to “budgetary” considerations…but we are still paying for the upkeep of the unused horses? Why?!?!
And we’re cutting out the canine units because of their cost?
If Mr. Santiago can’t or won’t see the flaws in his thinking, than it is up to the Mayor to point them out and have them corrected.
The fact that Mr. Palmer doesn’t see these flaws is but another indication of how detached and unfocused he is on Trenton.
And if all of the above isn’t bad enough, Palmer and Santiago steadfastly deny that Trenton needs or would benefit from the presence of the State Police in Trenton.
State Senator Shirley Turner has called for the State Police to come in and help out.
Councilmen Bethea, Coston, Melone and Segura continue to call for the same.
And now the public seems to be raising its collective voice with a similar opinion.
Through it all, the Mayor and his [former] Police Director maintain that we are wrong.
The State Police are not trained in “urban policing” we’re told.
The cost would be prohibitive.
Crime is down, we don’t need their help.
It’s painfully obvious that if Palmer and Santiago accept help from the State Police it would be an admission that they have failed to provide the most basic level of public safety to the citizens of Trenton.
Well, these two suit-clad egos should sit up and take notice. They have failed.
It is time to get serious about dealing with the realities and perception of crime in Trenton. Let’s bring in the State Police, reconstitute the vice squad and retain and rebuild the canine unit. Let’s sell off the cute horses and all their tack, and let’s focus our resources on bringing law and order back to Trenton.
And that includes removing the criminally negligent from City Hall and Police Headquarters.